September 17, 2003

IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY, so I took the day off and went to the mountains. I can be there in 30 minutes from my door, but I do it less often than I should. I'm trying to do better that way, and not just because of Andrew Sullivan's call for an intervention by Bloggers Anonymous.

I took the RX-8 of course, and had a great time. Had lunch at The Burning Bush in Gatlinburg (no revelation appeared, but the chicken club sandwich was good), went up to Clingman's Dome and Newfound Gap, and just drove around and had fun.

The park was less empty than I expected -- a mix of senior citizens and foreign tourists (mostly German and English, judging by the accents I overheard). The weather was perfect, 80 and sunny at the park entrance, 50 and mostly foggy at the top of Clingman's Dome, but that was the only place not drenched in sunshine.

I should do this sort of thing more often. Maybe I will!

UPDATE: Some people wondered about the dead trees in the top photo. I've heard various things blamed for the large number of dead Fraser firs up on Clingman's dome -- ozone pollution, acid rain, even the horrific coldsnap of 1984, where it was 24 below in Knoxville and probably 50 below up on Clingman's dome. But the actual culprit, according to the Forest Service, is an imported insect called the wooly adelgid. They've contained the infestation, more or less, by spraying a soap solution that kills them, but it wiped out a bunch of trees some years ago, and the skeletons are still standing. I think they're also using biological predators to try to control them.

All part of nature's cycle, I suppose, and it does improve the view -- in the old days, that photo would have shown nothing but up-close trees. On the other hand, I liked the feel of the trail to the summit better back when there were big tall fir trees all around.